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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 09/20/2010

Warm nights fuel summer heat records

By Andrew Freedman

Md., Va. stations record hottest summer on record

* Superb, then sticky: Full Forecast | NatCast | Trick tornado photo *


2010 summer average temperatures in Maryland (red circles indicate hottest on record) measured at sites that are part of NOAA's Historical Climatology Network. Credit: Natural Resources Defense Council.

As we approach the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22, it's time for one final look at just how hot it was this past summer in the D.C. area and beyond. We've already reported that the meteorological summer of 2010 -- June, July and August -- was the hottest on record in Washington, and that Baltimore broke its record for the most 90+ degree days in a single year.

Now comes word from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group, that out of the 1,218 weather stations in the contiguous United States that are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Historical Climatology Network (HCN), 153 recorded their hottest summer on record, and nearly one in three stations recorded average temperatures among their five hottest on record. Furthermore, the new report states that nearly one in four weather stations in the HCN had their hottest average nighttime lows ever recorded.

"This means that at 278 stations the average nighttime low temperatures for June, July and August 2010 were hotter than at any time since 1895," the NRDC stated.

"Hot, stagnant nights can prove even more harmful than daytime highs as vulnerable populations -- particularly the elderly and low-income individuals without air conditioning -- are unable to cool down and get relief from the stress of day-time heat that persists into the evening," stated Kim Knowlton, senior scientist with NRDC's Health and Environment Program, in a press release.

Out of the 513 weather stations east of the Mississippi, NRDC researchers found that 40 percent reported their hottest average nighttime low temperatures and more than 80 percent reported average nighttime low temperatures among their five hottest on record.

The nighttime low temperature findings are not only significant for human health reasons, but also are a more telltale sign of the influence of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as high levels of humidity. According to the 2009 federal government report, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," there has been an increasing number of high-humidity heat waves in the U.S. during the past three to four decades, and very warm nighttime low temperatures -- which do not provide people the opportunity to cool off sufficiently -- are becoming a more common feature of heat waves.

As Washingtonians already know, the mid-Atlantic was one of the areas hardest hit by relentless summertime heat this year. The NRDC report depicts this clearly, noting: "In Maryland, 15 of the 16 stations in the HCN reported their hottest average temperatures, and 12 reported their hottest average nighttime low temperatures on record in summer 2010. All 16 Maryland stations reported average temperatures and average nighttime low temperatures among their five hottest on record in summer 2010."

Virginia was also very warm, according to the NRDC report, with the hottest average temperature record set at 13 out of the 19 Virginia observation stations in the HCN network. In addition, 17 of the stations had average nighttime low temperatures among the top five hottest recorded.


2010 summer nighttime temperatures in Virginia (red circles indicate hottest on record) measured at sites that are part of NOAA's Historical Climatology Network. Credit: National Resources Defense Council.

The heat was not just confined to parts of the U.S., as NOAA recently reported that combined land and ocean temperatures in August were the third warmest on record globally, and the period from January to August was tied with 1998 as the warmest on record. Data compiled by NASA as well as satellite instruments corroborate the remarkable heat so far in 2010, which scientists have attributed in part to manmade climate change, as well as an El Nino event that ended early in 2010.

A La Nina event, featuring abnormally cool temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is rapidly strengthening, and may prevent 2010 from becoming the hottest year in the instrumental record.

It's interesting to compare Maryland, which was one of the hottest states this summer, with, say, California, which was one of the cooler ones. None of California's 54 HCN stations recorded their hottest average temperature this summer, nor did any record their warmest average nighttime temperature. The predominant weather pattern across the lower-48 states this summer kept the heat locked in east of the Mississippi River, with cooler-than-average weather along the West Coast.

The views expressed here are the author's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | September 20, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Extreme Heat, Freedman, Local Climate  
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Comments

Not so good up in the Arctic, either. On NBC news, I think, there was piece about how the walruses are having to rest on land, rather than ice floes because all the Arctic ice melted. And the indigenous people in that region are doing snow/ice rituals because the ice isn't freezing and the ground isn't snow covered, as it normally would be this time of the year. (We normally don't start snow dancing/chanting around here until early-mid December.)

Meanwhile DCA is up to 1,967 cooling degree days, only 39 below 1980's 2,006.

The YTD average is 1,450; last year there 1,360 YTD cooling degree days. So this indicator is now 35.6% agove average (and 45% higher than last year).

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | September 20, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

The Capital Warmist Gang never miss an opportunity to link the weather to Global Warming.

The truth is that 2009-2010 was an El Nino Year, just like 2003 that saw all the euro-heatwaves, just like 1998 since when the world has been cooling.

The only thing we have to fear is Climate Change Fear itself.

P.S. The Walruses are fine. They ALWAYS have used those beaches, just ask the US Fish and Wildlife Department, as you can see here. http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/walrus/nhistory.htm

Posted by: ecocampaigner | September 20, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

ecocampaigner wrote, "The Capital Warmist Gang never miss an opportunity to link the weather to Global Warming."

That's only partially correct. A more accurate phrasing would be, "The Capital Warmist Gang never miss an opportunity to link the hot weather to Global Warming."

Remember last winter? Freezing cold and deep, deep snow. That meant nothing as far as global warming is concerned. If you think record cold and record snow disproves global warming, Andrew will disagree. Record cold and record snow mean nothing! But a wicked hot summer, THAT proves it is true.

And Andrew gets valuable space at a national news outlet.

It is a world gone mad. We are the intergalatic comedy channel. Somewhere, on some distant planet, aliens are watching us like a reality TV show, and they are laughing their asses off. (No, I don't really believe that. But it is a funny visual, isn't it?)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

A wicked, hot summer and "Boing!", out pops the ol' "climate change" tag. One summer. How does one summer, or even one year merit being called climate? Weren't a whole bunch of people rightly pointing out that fact last winter? Where are those same people now? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Quoting from a report in the article: "there has been an increasing number of high-humidity heat waves in the U.S. during the past three to four decades"

It seems like the even hotter weather we had in the 30's did not have the same level of humidity. However, our hottest weather, which wasn't all that humid, came in July when it was in the 90's well into Quebec and continental air is drier and hotter than tropical air. Similarly the 1930's heat waves smashed record highs in the northern half of the country, but again with dry air.

The factor that is not mentioned in the article above is urban heat island effect. In the 1930's the cities were less built up and were able to cool off more at night. So even though the highs were higher, the average was lower. So both factors, UHIE and increased humidity, need to be considered.

Posted by: eric654 | September 20, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q. needs to be reminded that, while our area was below normal last winter, the rest of the world, except for part of northern Siberia, was warming up.

Please remember my posts of last week...while the globe has been warming up, solar output has been rather constant, subject to up and down variations consistent with the sunspot cycle. Something is causing global climate to warm up, but it is not due to a brightening or heating up of the Sun's surface. Unfortunately for global warming skeptics, the NOAA opinion is that the rise in average global temperatures is most likely due to human activities, specifically increased release of greenhouse gases of all types.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | September 20, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

@ecocampaigner, people who have the courage of your convictions don't hide behind aliases, especially when attacking others.

If you had seen the TV news piece, you would have learned that:

(a) resting on the beaches mean walruses have to travel further to their food supply, with attendant risks

(b) walruses panic easily and the pups can be and are trampled to death when a herd of walruses stampedes into the water.

These animals much prefer to rest on ice floes and beaches are usually a hostel of last restort.

Finally, Andrew's posts on warming are invaluable and merit the space CWG allocates to this important topic.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | September 20, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Here's a graphic http://i433.photobucket.com/albums/qq51/palmer2/heatwave.jpg from the report http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap3-3/final-report/sap3-3-final-Chapter2.pdf that shows the difference in the 1930's and recent heat waves. The report was written in 2008/9 so does not include this past summer.

But it is clear from the text that they did not consider the effect of UHIE on nighttime temperatures, only dismissed it in general. Global average anomalies are adjusted for UHIE, but records cannot be and are not adjusted. It is more likely that the nighttime records will be polluted with UHIE than daytime. Here's a simple example: http://schoolofsustainability.asu.edu/news/greentalk/urban-heat-island-affects-phoenix-all-year-round in an extreme case (hot, sunny, and heavily urbanized Phoenix)

Posted by: eric654 | September 20, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@Bombo47jea

Last winter was the fourth snowiest on record in the northern hemisphere

Peru: Global warming blamed for coldest winter in 40 years

Bombo47jea, when you are bumming rides from your friends and neighbors to and from your dances, do you tell them that if it were up to you their fuel would be rationed?

Would you also ration electrical energy consumption? Or just automobile fuel?

If you would ration electrical energy consumption, then is it safe to assume that you are in favor of nuclear energy?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

@JerryFloyd

"If you had seen the TV news piece, you would have learned that:"

Sorry Jerry, I prefer to believe the biologists from the US Wildlife Dept than some German Newspaper's fluff piece which was gleamed for a nice eco-scare story for the naive watchers of the evening news.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | September 20, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

eric564: yes, the urban heat island effect does need to be considered in addition to other factors, but it cannot account for the long-term increase in average temperatures in the US and around the world. It certainly plays a role, though, in exacerbating heat waves, making it warmer at night in cities than outlying areas, for example.

Posted by: afreedma | September 20, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting stats, Andrew...

Does anyone know of a source to get historic monthly average temps for particular stations? I'd be interested in looking at Virginia data.

Posted by: spgass1 | September 20, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

@afreedma-Could you explain why the urban heat island effect cannot account for the long-term increase? Aren't a great many weather monitoring stations in urban areas, or at least areas that are more urbanized than 40 years ago?

Have data folks run numbers using only monitoring stations that are out in the middle of nowhere?

Posted by: ah___ | September 20, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

ah___, I'm sure Andrew will answer your question but I agree with his answer to me that the UHIE has been considered regarding the long term increase in average temperatures. This is part of a well-studied homogenization process.

What is a lot harder to analyze is the UHI effect on records since they cannot be and are not adjusted (a record temperature is what it is). This would require a study of new urban versus rural records and it is difficult to categorize urban and rural stations.

Further compounding the problem is siting problems (e.g. new pavement near a sensor causing more heat or trees growing up causing cooling). Once again, homogenization is designed to take care of this kind of problem when looking at US or global averages, but records are not adjusted for this kind of local effect.

To sum up, average temperatures are increasing despite corrections for UHIE. New records are increasing (especially high minimums) and some of those new records are broken because of UHIE and local siting issues. To only show raw numbers of records (as my first link above shows), doesn't tell the whole story.

Posted by: eric654 | September 20, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

ah__: I would refer you to the website Skeptical Science, which has a very understandable explanation of the urban heat island effect on long-term temp. trends. http://www.skepticalscience.com/urban-heat-island-effect-intermediate.htm

Posted by: afreedma | September 20, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

ah___, for more information on UHI, I would recommend -
http://wattsupwiththat.com/category/uhi/

You might find this interesting -
ABC says UHI making cities hotter!

and this -
The dark side of climate change

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Global Warming is still BS. Stop continuing to try and ram it down our throats.

Posted by: Jsuf | September 20, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Jsuf, it's Andrews site, so he is free to write any article he chooses. If you do not like his articles just ignore them. Also you & Mr.Q are free 2 start your own web sites & write whatever you want.

Posted by: VaTechBob | September 20, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

VaTechBob, how about option "C" -
Some of us stick around here and we swat down the nonsense as Andrew posts it? Help keep everything in one central location. Convenience for the reader and ad revenue for Washington Post. It is the proverbial win-win for the reader and Washington Post. :)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The "extreme" skeptics, as witnessed above, conveniently overlook that it's not just surface land temperatures which are rising, where it's reasonable at least to pose the question of the "heat island" effect. Temperatures through the depth (approx 38K feet) of the troposphere (where"weather occurs) are warmer than ever in the satellite record. Moreover, ocean sea-surface temperatures are also at record levels and deep ocean heat content has been increasing.


Sure, El Nino probably had a role in this years summer warmth as it did in 1998; but, the 2010 El Nino earlier this year was not as strong as in 1998 and has decayed towards La Niña more rapidly than in 1998. And, the warming of the atmosphere due to El Nino is at the expense of the oceans loosing heat, but as mentioned, oceans has been warming overall, not cooling.

For anyone seriously interested in reality, the info above is easy to confirm. Others probably will not look or ignore the facts. Reality does not go away simply because one might stop believing in it.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | September 20, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Mr.Q, I'll opt 4 option D ignoring all your posts.
Oh, by the way, last winter here was only
1.5 below average, hardly bitter cold. Also most of New England & Southern Canada were straved 4 snow this winter. You seem 2 want 2 point out that there was a lot of snow in this area disproving GW, but brush aside record warmth.

Posted by: VaTechBob | September 20, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

SteveT wrote, "Temperatures through the depth (approx 38K feet) of the troposphere (where"weather occurs) are warmer than ever in the satellite record.

Not true. 1998 still holds the record.


SteveT also wrote, " Moreover, ocean sea-surface temperatures are also at record levels and ..."

Also not true. Sea surface temperatures are plummeting.


SteveT also wrote, "... and deep ocean heat content has been increasing. "

I don't have access to that. But if the data does show an increase, I would be suspicious. Quoting Wikipedia "In an article from November 5, 2008, Josh Willis states that the world ocean actually has been warming since 2003 after removing Argo measurement errors from the data and adjusting the measured temperatures with a computer model his team developed.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Nice work debunking the fear-mongers Mr. Q.

Andrew and the rest of the Capital Warmist Gang count on their readers not to check up on the problems with their "adjusted" temperature readings.

Now that the climate bill is dead, hopefully these pandering references to Global Warming will be disallowed and Andrew and company will be forced to become boring old weatherman again, no more rock-star trips to Cancun.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | September 20, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks ecocampaigner. And right back at you! It is a team effort. You and Eric and others all contribute. I was fortunate to have had the spare time today.

I hope you are right about the climate bill. But it is tough to predict what a lame duck session might do. I don't know if we can completely rule it out. :(

In Spain they tried a big government mandated green push. It cost them 2.2 existing jobs for every "green" job created. Our economy can't afford that.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 20, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q knows as I know he has cherry picked Spencer's site without looking at the raw data there (surprise, surprise). I stand by my statements. Too bad Mr. Q's "team" is equally unwilling to accept reality.

Signing off

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | September 20, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

SteveT, If you want to argue about an increase in global average temp in oceans or the upper atmosphere, or other place free of UHIE, that's fine. It's true: there has been warming from the 80's to the 90's to the 00's independent of any possible UHIE contamination (e.g. using the satellite measurements). The current global average temperature measured by satellite it close to or exceeding 1998.

But I don't see how you can say ocean temperatures or upper atmosphere temperatures are at "record highs" without the context that these haven't been measured accurately for very long and the highs aren't much greater than 1998 if they are greater. Not very meaningful.

Furthermore, that is a distraction from the claim above, which is that increases in the number of record warm minimums are due to more humidity. Clearly some of it is UHIE because records are not adjusted for UHIE. The larger cities are creating new record high minimums at night unlike nearby rural areas.

Posted by: eric654 | September 20, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q and ecocampaigner.......some good posts on your part. You two (apparantly) put truth and fact above politics and fearmongering. I'm solidly with you both.
Keep up the good work.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | September 20, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

SteveT used his psychic powers and opined, "Mr. Q knows as I know he has cherry picked Spencer's site without looking at the raw data there (surprise, surprise)."

So you claim to know what I know? Hmmm.... I am thinking of a number between -3 and 5,893,022,845. What number am I thinking of?

:)

If you don't like UAH data (found at Dr. Spencer's web site), how about RSS's data? According to their data -
1998 was the warmest year for the lower troposphere
1998 was the warmest year for the middle troposphere
1998 was the warmest year for the troposphere/stratosphere
and last, but certainly not least
1992 was the warmest year for the stratosphere

So that makes you wrong based upon both atmosphere temperature measuring sources and at all levels of the atmosphere. That's a twofer!

go here and scroll down a tiny bit to the four temperature anomaly charts.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 21, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

@ecocampaigner - when the heck did I go to Cancun? And what constitutes a "rock-star trip?"

Posted by: afreedma | September 21, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

There is a new paper out which includes data from the Argo floats. Quoting from the paper's abstract -
"Using only 2003–2008 data from Argo floats, we find by four different algorithms that the recent trend ranges from –0.010 to –0.160 W/m2 with a typical error bar of ±0.2 W/m2. These results fail to support the existence of a frequently-cited large positive computed radiative imbalance."

Source of the above quote.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | September 21, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

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